A former chairman of the National Conservation Commission (NCC) has charged that the agency has been used as a political tool by both Barbados Labour Party and Democratic Labour Party regimes. The claim by the BLP’s Edmund Hinkson comes as authorities prepare to send home more than 200 NCC workers this week as part of Government’s public sector retrenchment programme.
Hinkson, who chaired the commission between 1995 and 1999, told Barbados TODAY that the agency was used to employ people who had difficulties finding work elsewhere.
“You could argue whether this ought to have been done, but this is a political reality; and it served a social purpose,” the parliamentary representative for St James North said, while at the same time criticizing Government’s plan to lay off some of the workers. “What are these people going to do now? Where are they going to get a job? What hope is there for them?”
However, Hinkson’s comments did not find favour with his colleague BLP Cynthia Forde, who said she had only noticed NCC being used for political purposes recently. And, Forde, the Member of Parliament for St Thomas, said she was particularly worried about the impact those layoffs would have on the country’s tourism product.
“We need them for Crop Over. What are we going to do this year? They help with what happens on Brandon’s Beach and the beaches all the way down on Spring Garden to enhance the environment and make it ready for the Crop Over activities and indeed after,” she said. Meanwhile, Forde has suggested that the proper channels were not being followed relative to NCC retrenchments.
She pointed to the recent disclosure by the Minister of Environment Dennis Lowe that he has a copy of the retrenchment list, suggesting that this could imply political interference. And to counter the impact of the layoffs, the MP wants Government to put a temporary hold on the paying for licences to vend, and to begin leasing plantation lands for small crop farming. Forde said this would help many people to get back to work and feed their families.
“Let the Government scrap those licences for those people; give them certain regulations that they must conform with, and let them go and do some selling. Many of them might have been doing that before they were drafted into the system,” she said.
“I believe that some of our plantation owners must be approached and the Government can do it [give them] a quarter acre of land on a lease basis for a five-year term or whatever. People will pay for that land lease and be able to feed their families,” Forde added.